Creating a Road Map for Ministry: A Reflection by Fr. Steve Verhelst

As a priest of 24 years, the past 21 have been lived as a pastor of multiple parishes: four parishes in my current assignment and five parishes in my previous assignment. Throughout these years of priesthood, I have known and attempted to carry out the threefold office of a pastor: to teach, sanctify, and govern.

Knowing what I am supposed to do is one thing, but actually living it 
out is another matter. Being a pastor of multiple parishes involves a daily ministry of "interruptions"  Within moments of starting a new day, the schedule that I thought will guide my day had already changed. The ministry of "interruptions" is unavoidable, but without a vision, which I did not have, the "interruptions" filled my days and emptied my spirit for ministry.

In the fall of 2010, I was introduced to Key Responsibility Areas (KRA's) through my participation in Good Leaders, Good ShepherdsOur cohort was invited to think about how we go about our day and whether initiative is present, as well as lack of focus. I was suffering from lack of focus; a lack of vision. Key Responsibility Areas help to answer the questions "What is this ministry? And,why does it matter?" KRA's provide focus, and what I like to call a MAP. By writing down key responsibility areas I discovered the Motivation, Accountability, and Purpose which I needed, a MAP, for my role as pastor of multiple parishes.

Key Responsibility Areas provide motivation
I am now able to answer why this ministry matters. For example, I always knew that I needed to commit myself to the development of my physical well-being, but I lacked the motivation to do so. Writing a KRA around health/wellness challenged me to ask the, question, "what part of the day is spent in service to my health and wellness and why is it important?" It helped to clarify that I needed to celebrate balance in life so as to serve God's people with wholeness and joy.

Key Responsibility Areas provide accountability.
The process of writing down my KRA's helps to align my role with Christ's vision and the diocesan vision for leadership. After writing down my KRA's, I first shared them with my spiritual director, and secondly I shared them with the bishop and the staff I share ministry with each day. By sharing these KRA's with others, it opened doors of communication, brought clarity/focus to my leadership, and invited others to know and offer support me in the ongoing functions in my role as pastor. Recently I shared my KRA's with the pastoral council members of our four parishes and decided to share them with the parishioners of all four parishes. By communicating my KRA's to the leadership of these four parishes and its parishioners, a collaborative environment is being created where they provide support and offer encouragement in my ongoing functions as pastor. At the same time, they are taking a more active role in the development of a new way of being "church" through the sharing of their gifts.

Key Responsibility Areas provide ministry a purpose.
I have always valued the notion of connectedness. Things happen for a reason, even the "interruptions." Key Responsibility Areas help make the connection between my individual efforts, "interruptions," and tasks within the bigger picture of my role as pastor. For example, the KRA for my governing role has helped to develop a vision statement for the four parishes. While each parish has its own unique culture and identity, the development of a vision statement has enabled our parishes to come together, share resources, and celebrate the diversity of gifts with greater clarity and confidence.

Key Responsibility Areas continue to transform my life as a pastor of multiple parishes. The daily "interruptions" of ministry no longer drain 
me even though they are always there. I am now able to tend to those "interruptions" within the framework of the Key Responsibility Areas that provide a MAP (Motivation, Accountability, Purpose) which gives me direction, focus, and a holy ordering. Key Responsibility Areas articulate the skills and techniques I need to lead more effectively and collaboratively within multiple contexts and through the daily demands of ministry.